By Sandra Miller
“My story with an unhealthy childhood”
I grew up in South Boston MA. It was a very tight-knit community with lots of traditional values with a great sense of community and plenty of friends and neighbors. One thing that I noticed throughout my childhood was that I always seemed to feel unwell, and was sicker more often than my peers. I spent more time on antibiotics than off of them. Sometimes I just did not feel like playing because I just did not feel well so I “sat things out” a lot. Without being too descriptive let us just say that my “elimination systems” were broken. I ate your typical kid’s diet of pizza, spaghetti, hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chips were a staple with every lunch.
I began gaining weight at the age of 10, and if I recall correctly, my weight was 112 lbs. At 14 years old my family doctor prescribed amphetamines and told my Mom that this would help. I now weighed 175 lbs. Over the next six years, I gained and lost weight constantly and did lose all but about 25 lbs.. of my “baby fat.” I was sick more of the year than I was well, and I was on off antibiotics constantly until my tonsils were removed in 1977.
“Things just got worse”
Fast forward to 22 years old and my post-baby self – I was well over 200 lbs., sluggish, pale, cholesterol was elevated, and I had pre-eclampsia in my pregnancy. I now began feeling symptoms of hypoglycemia, and I was hungry all the time. I decided to lose the weight and learn better habits once and for all because now I have a little human, and I need to assure that I know how to best care for one. I still had the digestive issues which had plagued me since the age of nine. On top of that I started to develop these random aches and pains and was tired most of the time. I just chalked it up to being a new mom. I set out to get healthier, and since I love to read, I went to the library and brought home two books that would change my life.
“I then ascended upon what would become not only an obsession, but a mission and my life’s plan.”
“Change does come but…”
I lost close to 90 lbs that year and became one of the first Certified Personal Trainers in the Boston area in 1984. It was pre-Jane Fonda era. Who better to help others than someone who has been through it themselves right? I embarked on what would be a very successful career in Boston. I was feeling better from the exercise and healthier eating but still lots of aches and pains and digestive ails. With drive and passion, I practiced and taught the low fat, high carb diet that shunned saturated fat that I preached. I did finally get a diagnosis of “fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome” after my second child but, no real good answer on how to get rid of it or how I got it in the first place. I would not find out the dangers of this style of eating until much later.
We moved to Cape Cod in 1995, and I continued with my career teaching exercise classes and training, but it was tough getting through some of the days. I somehow developed allergies and, to add insult to my fatigued and painful body. I feel as if I woke up one day at 38 years old ,and all of a sudden my whole body turned on me as perimenopause was rearing its ugly head. It announced its’ onset with extremely heavy menstruation. My bowel issues were getting so bad that I was afraid to eat and dreaded mealtime. Every food seemed to cause an issue. Gas, bloating, pain and constipation were normal and bowel movements came only about twice a week. Intimacy was uncomfortable, and I just wanted to be left alone. The brain fog was making it hard to teach some of my aerobic classes. How could someone so healthy feel so horrible?
Thy symptoms kept piling up and, I added to my list an extreme intolerance to cold and my hair had thinned out quite a bit. I had weekly episodes of near fainting while teaching Yoga classes. Having a medical background, I knew something was surely wrong. I sought the help of my doctor because I was sure that my thyroid was giving me grief. After all testing was done my doctor said that my thyroid was perfectly normal, but my blood pressure has been a bit low. We concluded that the dizziness was due to the low blood pressure. He told me to “eat more salt”. He also said my heart was healthy and so gave me a clean bill of health and sent me on my way.
I tried elimination diets, but the symptoms still came and went. The hypoglycemia became so bad that I had to eat every two hours like clockwork. I would give anything to find out what was wrong but who held the answers?
“A little hope”
At the urging of a friend, I went to a Naturopath by the name of Peter Glidden, N.D. In 1997, there were not all that many Naturopaths out there but, I was getting no help from the allopathic medical community. I also got my first colonic, and I must say it was a” religious experience.” Other doctors made me think it was all in my head but offered antidepressants, muscle relaxers and told me to take NSAIDs for my body pain and antihistamines for the allergy symptoms. I refused most treatment options. Dr. Glidden used homeopathic remedies and a strict elimination diet. He suspected that I may have an issue with gluten and dairy.
Now feeling better for the first time I slowly introduced foods back into my diet and watched for symptoms, however, the palpitations and dizziness came more frequently. After a full workup in 2001 with a local Cardiologist, you could imagine my shock and horror to hear that I had two different arrhythmias with one leading to a pacemaker in my near future. It turned out to be my 45th birthday present only 4 years later.
Wow! How on earth did this happen? I had just opened up my new fitness center that focused on de-conditioned and challenged individuals. I felt like I was becoming one of them! Only 1 ½ years after we opened Well-Fit Personal Fitness we packed up and moved to Florida. It was just two years later the pacemaker made its debut. My energy began returning. I decided to take on the challenge of a corporate job that was a dream of mine. After all, I was on the mend right?
“One step forward, two back”
While spending most of my work week on airplanes and in rental cars, my go-to snack when I needed nutrition became the artificially sweetened, GMO soy containing protein bar that my company sold as part of it’s “meal replacements” Some old habits slipped back in. Hello, hypothyroidism fast track!! How did I get so off track? I was so much worse that my every moment was affected by pain in my body of some sort. A coworker sparked my passion for my former “healthy” lifestyle by taking notice of my new addiction to soy laden and artificially sweetened bars.
“Full steam ahead”
After finding information on Paleo diet, I went back to the grain-free lifestyle that began to get me well previously. I removed all grains, ate only grass-fed beef and pastured chicken and eggs and included the wild game. I backed off on the salmon that I was eating about 5x per week. I was learning how farmed salmon had lots of toxins and a hell of a lot of mercury. I ate as many fresh organic veggies as my appetite would allow and used dark chocolate, nuts, seeds and coconut as a snack. I ate seasonal fruits as well. Its been about 6 years back on track and I have my life back!
I now spend my mornings before work expressing gratitude for my newfound health and daily bowel movements. After a year, however; my blood sugar was still a bit wonky, and I still had to eat at least every 2 ½ hours. Could it be that I was eating too much fruit? The answer is yes, it certainly was. At least for my physiology. I decided to “reset” my Leptin based on an article by Dr. Jack Kruse after listening to his interview on a podcast. No more six small meals a day. That theory for me has been blown out of the water. This strategy was nothing short of miraculous for me. I now help clients with blood sugar challenges to the same.
Here is the link: http://www.jackkruse.com/my-leptin-prescription/.
“Missing link found!”
So finally in 2013, my thyroid was fixed thanks to Functional Medicine practices and protocols. Supplements were also instrumental in my healing. It’s not possible to get optimal without them. My leptin reset itself so well that I went from an insulin level of 8 to a 3. I can intermittent fast if I chose to and, I can go 5 or 6 hours between most meals now. I have all my energy back. I assume and probably still am, a little high on the mercury scale. A lot of my body aches came from being very high in mercury. I am still removing my amalgams slowly. For now I just do a little natural chelation a few days a week and on the days I eat fish. Doing this allows me to keep the toxic burden down among a few other “hacks” I do routinely. I will be sharing these strategies as well. I did find out that I was homozygous for the MTHFR a1298C, a genetic mutation that alters the way our bodies detoxify and produce neurotransmitters as well as a few other things. Well, that explains some of it now doesn’t it. This is another area that I will write about often.
If you have not heard of MTHFR believe me, you will be. This genetic mutation can handle depression, anxiety and high homocysteine. If you look at its initials, it gives a slight hint of what it is. (It’s an MTHFR if you catch my drift.) It is my new mission to educate on this so much more. I am proud to have Dr. Maggie-Ruiz-Paedae for guidance as she is an expert on MTHFR gene mutations.
I am also a huge fan of adaptogenic herbs such as holy basil, rhodiola and my favorite, ashwagandha. I was thrilled to have these gifts from the earth when working to lower my high cortisol. The pain I experienced for so long caused a chronic stress response in my body making it harder to heal. Read my article on managing stress with adaptogenic herbs. I hope this can help you as well.
I am a classic example of genes “loading the gun, but environment pulling the trigger.” Antibiotics, poor food choices, gluten, vaccinations, viruses and a few major life stressors and the environment was ripe for the manifestation of so many health challenges that so many of us face today. It was a perfect storm for autoimmunity. I am here to assist you and guide you on your journey to the health you seek through encouraging testing, following an appropriate eating strategy and “Biohacking YOUR wellness just like I did.
Here is to a life optimized!